Category: Focus

Creating Separation from the Competition Step by Step

Football season has officially kicked off and you’ll be hearing a lot about wide receivers needing to create separation from opposing defenses to get themselves open. Same applies in business…you have to put a little distance between you and your competitors so you can get out in front of them and make your breakaway.

So, how do you go about creating this separation from your competitors. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the one thing that you do amazingly well? What makes you unique in the way that you do it? Are these 2 things stuck in the past or the way of the future?
  2. Who, specifically, is your target audience? Do they know you for the things you describe in your answers to the questions above?
  3. Who is your competition?
    1. What is your position on the ladder in this space?
    1. Does your competition know you exist?
    1. What are your competitors doing successfully/unsuccessfully?

Once you answer these questions, pick the one thing that makes you unique to your customers and separates you from your competitors, carve out this niche with your target audience…and then run a giant truck through it! It really isn’t much harder than that.

The Power of ONE

What is “The Power of ONE”? This is how you create separation from your competition…not by focusing on a thousand things or measuring a thousand different KPIs. Pick ONE thing to focus on…What is your ONE Superpower, Pick ONE Word that describes what you do and hammer it home to your target customers, then measure how you are doing by the ONE metric that gives you that multiplier effect and creates a snowball that can’t be stopped.

Then focus on your 1,000 True Fans ONE-by-ONE (this is the only place I recommend you focus on more than ONE…having just ONE customer is great when it’s great and the kiss of death when it stumbles), get ONE small win then another and then another, strive to get ONE 1% better every day, and soon you will be hitting it out of the park and creating miles of separation between you and your competitors.

That’s “The Power of ONE”!

 

What’s Your Superpower?

Comic Con 2018 has come and gone and the masks must come off. What’s left…just you and your Superpower…what is it? Do you even know…if you don’t, ask others, they can tell you.

Maybe your super power is that you are extremely patient or cool under pressure, maybe you are super curious or a great listener, maybe you are super persistent or out hustle everybody else. Maybe you are a great idea person or visionary, maybe you are a great mathematician or extremely mechanically inclined, or maybe you are a great speaker or writer. How about any of these: Tenacious, Problem Solver, Hyper-Focused, or Extreme Attention to Detail. What is it that comes super easy to you and you could do all day because you just love it? Don’t box yourself in to just what you’ve been doing for the last 2, 5, or 10 years…how did you get there anyway?

I love this older post from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing on the same subject where he says “you may have to dig deep to reacquaint yourself with your superpower. You may have masked it because you think it’s not very business oriented. You may have to go back to when you thought anything was possible, back to when you played like a kid.”

Being bigger and stronger than everybody else doesn’t always work either…think David vs. Goliath or the sharp tree spears in Braveheart that they waited for the last minute to pull out on the advancing cavalry. That’s also why there is a draw play in football…suck the super aggressive defenders in and then run right through the middle as they outrun the pocket. Sometimes you need to restrain that superpower a bit or maybe your super power is to be clever enough to outflank your overwhelmingly strong opponent with one of the above maneuvers.

Find your superpower and bring it to work with you in every aspect of your day. Get out there and do the unexpected. Also, remember, the key to success isn’t just applying this superpower to your work, but also not focusing on the shiny new things that are not your superpower. Is there somebody else working with you that has these powers that you lack?

Focusing on your superpower is how you create separation between you and the rest of the pack. So, go ahead and take off that mask you’ve been hiding behind and go be you with all your unique superpowers!

The Last Mile…Keep Pushing Through

“Most of us are good starters, but poor finishers…failure cannot cope with persistence” – Napoleon Hill

The first time I heard the term “the last mile” was relatively early in my electronics career when a customer was speaking of how difficult it was to connect all internet users at “the last mile”. What he was referring to was a phrase used in the telecommunications industry of the final leg of physically getting copper wire run to every single house so that every house in the world could communicate with every other. Maybe not a big deal in New York City or L.A. where everyone lives in close proximity of one another, but another challenge all together on a farm on the plains.

It is a similar problem for moving things like electricity, water, even packages (easy to fly a plane full of packages between airports, but need lots of vehicles to get them from their pickup point and out to their final destination).

When I first heard this I thought about how much it applied to life in general. Sometimes as I have previously written about it is quite difficult to even get started, but how many things have you taken to 80 or 90% and just never put forth that final effort to finish up…that last mile can be a killer sometimes.

So the challenge is one of perseverance…how do you push through when you really just want to quit?

Try this…I think I got it from this Tim Ferriss podcast with Josh Waitzkin: sometimes people will slack off at the end of a workout or at the end of a workday knowing that they are headed home. Instead, try focusing the hardest on the last 3 things you are doing and you will carry that with you as you sleep overnight, as you drive in the car, etc. Your body is now focused on precision and your body will subconsciously think that way instead of being sloppy.

Keep pushing through…this is what we mean when we talk about creating separation…that finish line is in sight!

“Coffee is for closers” – Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross

Minimum Effective Dose

Water boils at 212F…any more than that doesn’t boil it any more than it already is!

  • If you are in a race, you only need to be a fraction of a second faster than everybody else…winning by 30 minutes makes you no first-er
  • In basketball and football you just need 1 more point than the other team, in baseball just one more run…in fact if you are up by a wide margin, you sit your best players to let them rest
  • Maybe you don’t need to study at all to get a C, but need to study 40 hours to get an A…what’s it worth to you and what are your alternative options with that 40 hours?

The point is, you need to understand what it takes to get ahead and work toward that. Just working hard with no knowledge of what it takes to achieve your goal may make you severely over work or maybe even under perform.

So, the question really is…what is the minimum effective dose that it will take to achieve the outcome that you really want?

Parkinson’s Law

Back in 1955 a British naval historian by the name of Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote his first article on what would eventually become Parkinson’s Law which states the following: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”…without producing significantly better results.

The basic idea here is this…don’t take 30 days to do something that can be done almost as well in 24 hours. Work will always expand to meet the hours in a day that you give it. So, work with a deadline, even if it is an artificial one. Shrink your timelines…constraints are a good thing…they force you to do more with less.

So, the next time you are given a project, severely shrink your timelines and you will be shocked at what you can achieve. You can see this in practice every day by all of the greatest companies and inventors…Elon Musk with SpaceX and Tesla, Jeff Bezos at Amazon, etc. One of the greatest inventors ever even took it a step further…Thomas Edison would talk about his ideas to the media before they were even ready…this would force him to get after it and stay on task.

One way to tackle this is to consider that the hardest thing to do is get started. If you can get the wheels in motion, consider that you might be able to get a project 85-90% of the way along in 24 hours, but the entire project may take 30 days. The second hardest thing to do is to conquer that last mile. So, maybe you can get things to 85-90% and hand off or outsource that last 10-15% that eats up more of your time.

So, continually apply Parkinson’s Law to find the shortest feasible path to completion, given the necessary trade-offs required by the work. Soon, you’ll be wondering what to do with all of your free time! Here’s one of the best posts I feel I’ve written on how to Get To It!

 

5 of My Favorite Short Reads

If you want to create separation between yourself and your competitors, it’s time to think differently. Here are 5 fabulously written theories on how to focus and invest your time and effort…

1000 True Fans:Brilliantly written by Kevin Kelly a while back, the basic point is if you can find 1,000 True Fans for whatever it is you are doing, you are off and running.

No, but really, How Do I Get an Agent: One of my favorite short reads from Brian Koppelman (the co-writer of Rounders, Billions, and a lot of other fun stuff). What he is trying to get across is just making something great won’t sell it, but if you put in the work, anything is possible. Don’t think you can just create something and everyone will beat a path to your door…it doesn’t work that way!

Hell Yeah, or No by Derek Sivers: Derek Sivers wrote this clever post that can be summed up by the title itself. Your time is precious…if you can’t say “Hell Yeah, I really want to do that” to something, just say “No”…you will be much happier for it and be able to put much more time into the “Yes’s”

Small Wins by Karl E. Weick: One of my favorite articles was written in 1988 by Karl E. Weick on the power of small wins. Others have written articles on the same subject, but this one is my favorite. The overall idea is that taking small bites out of a bigger more daunting challenge will get you where you want to go, whereas just trying to jump to the top in one giant stroke is near impossible. It’s a little bit of a longer read, but I posted a quick summary here too if you want to check it out…Law #5: Small Wins

Becoming an Idea Machine: My last in this list is a great post from James Altucher who talks about just coming up with 10 Ideas a Day. To keep yourself fresh and relevant, you should work every day to come up with 10 new ideas (not nearly as hard as it seems…read on). It’s a little longer, but worth the read, but I’ve also summarized it here at 10 Ideas a Day